Without spectators, no money, and without money, no professional sport. In short, this is what the presidents of the national basketball, volleyball, handball and hockey leagues hammer home in a tribune municipality published this Monday. Because, unlike the first confinement, professional athletes can continue to exercise their profession at the end of the year, provided it is done without an audience. A huge shortfall for the sector, which finds itself in a complicated financial situation.
This Tuesday, following a meeting with players in the world of sport, the government announced that the closed session would be maintained at least until January, while promising exemptions from charges and assistance to compensate for ticket office losses. While these measures must be specified on Wednesday, the president of the National Basketball League, Alain Béral, returns to the crisis that his sport is going through.
What is the situation for professional basketball clubs today?
In a very serious situation. To put it simply, there are sports that have TV rights, and those that don’t. In basketball, we don’t have any. Our system is based on ticketing, subscribers and sponsors. Today we are forced into a closed session, which is understandable, but it makes us lose the majority of our revenues. And without recipes, you can’t play. It’s like telling a restaurant owner that they can stay open, but customers aren’t allowed to come and eat at their place. It is not possible. And a priori, the whole month of December should take place without spectators, which is a blow, even if we suspected it. December is the most crowded month of the year, apart from the play-offs [phases finales, ndlr] in May and June. And in January, we are told of a limited gauge, but we have to see what this limit will be because the money must come in quickly.
What did you expect from the government and from the meeting held on Tuesday with players in the world of sport?
We weren’t asking the government to work miracles, we don’t do the quest, we just listen to us. Clubs are businesses like any other, with employees, executives, and of course players. We wanted help on salary costs, which was mentioned, which is good, and compensation for losses linked to matches without spectators. In addition, there is a risk of having to reimburse subscribers, as well as partners and companies. These are things that were negotiated by the clubs at the start of the season, before they knew they were going to have to play behind closed doors. Today, for the first time, basketball clubs are losing money, and we don’t know how long it will last.
And the rest of the season, how do you approach it?
Quite frankly, we look at our feet, and we only think of the next step we are going to be able to take, and not of the long race that we have in front of us. Obviously, whether it’s the coaches, the players or the managers, everyone wants to keep playing. But the priority is to preserve the clubs as much as possible, because our fear is that some will file for bankruptcy. The margin is small. If we were forced to play behind closed doors, without aids, there would be no clubs in January.